Hynoski excited to start coaching career

Henry Hynoski is living the best days of his life. It’s quite the statement considering where he has been the last 12 years.

Dressed in a purple Shamokin Indians football polo shirt, it was a statement he made emphatically. It was bold because of what Hynoski has been through in his life as a football player. It was a career which included a Pennsylvania Class A Player of the Year award along with four state championships at Southern Columbia. It was a career which included two years as a starting fullback at the University of Pittsburgh. And it was a career which included a Super Bowl championship in four seasons with the New York Giants.

But Hynoski has always wanted to return to his roots, and now he’s here as the new head football coach at Shamokin. And he’s here with both his wife, Laura, and his 11-month-old son Hudson.

“All the experiences I had led me to where I am,” Hynoski said at District 4 media day, “and I’m so thankful for that.”

Almost two years ago, Hynoski was named the head coach-in-waiting at Shamokin. He still needed to complete his Master’s degree and teaching certification to also be hired as the district’s Dean of Students. And, at the same time, he was completing an internship with the New York Giants.

Now he’s leading a program with so much history and tradition which hasn’t had a winning season since going 8-4 in 2004. Even when the Indians won a District 4 title in 2011, they finished the season with a 6-8 record.

Hynoski, all of 29 years old, has been charged with restoring the pride and tradition into a school which has had two or fewer wins in five of its last six seasons. It’s a challenge he’s excited to be part of. And it’s part of the reason he believes he’s living the best days of his life.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to try and revive a program that needs it,” Hynoski said. “I made a great choice and I’m very impressed with the district as a whole. I’m really enjoying my time here. It’s been awesome.”

He’s already the most famous coach in a district which features Jim Roth, his eight state championships and 412 wins, which ranks third all-time in Pennsylvania. Wherever he goes this fall, cameras and interest are going to follow.

If there’s anybody who could restore excitement and pride into a once dominant program, it seems like it would be Hynoski. If nothing else, a flash of his Super Bowl ring should bring him credibility among a student body which was barely learning to walk when Hynoski won his fourth state championship with Southern Columbia in 2006.

He’s trying to mold a team in his own image. One which hates to lose more than it loves to win. Hynoski’s Southern Columbia teams suffered three losses in his career. Each one still eats away at him.

He’s tried to show his team what the history of Shamokin football has meant to the destitute city. He brought in the first Shamokin coach after the merger between Coal Township and Shamokin High Schools and watched him recount the horrors of a game his team lost more than 50 years ago.

“That’s what it takes to be the best,” Hynoski said. “These guys have that edge. These guys can’t stand to lose. It has to feed all the way down from the seniors to the juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We need a nice successful year this year in order to build this thing. I think they understand what this means to the community.”

Hynoski knows well what the stigma around Shamokin football has been ever since his high school days. It’s been a program full of athletic playmakers which has struggled with discipline and needed something to bring it all together. He’s seen what it can be like in Shamokin when the Indians win. Hell, one of the three losses he took in his high school career came in the season-opener in 2005 to Shamokin.

He feels he can be the piece which helps bring everything together. He’s going into the season expecting to win every game even if he knows it may not be a reality. But more than anything else, he wants to bring a culture change to the program. He said he’s brought elements from his stops at Southern Columbia, the University of Pittsburgh and the New York Giants to help form his practice schedules and mold his team.

But his idea of culture change isn’t just about what happens on the football field. He wants to prepare his kids for what comes after high school football. He hopes his story of small town star to Super Bowl champion can help inspire a program and a school into believing there is more for them out there.

“Everybody has something special in them,” Hynoski said. “You need somebody to help realize that and bring that out. As a football coach, that’s one of our jobs, to make kids realize what they’re good at and what they can bring to this world whether it’s athletically or academically.”